black and white fifth avenue, a new species that is part material and part digital, explosions are the new freedom

291 Fifth Avenue

291 Fifth Avenue, 1917. By Paul Strand (1890-1976). Strand is another one of my favorite photographers. Much of his work is either in the public domain or the copyright is questionable. I could post quite a bit of his work. Good quality prints like the one above. The problem is that they’re behind institutional archive walls. If I belonged to two of the major library organizations I’d have access. If I was in 8th grade and used the library computer or just got the librarian’s pass code I would have access to hundreds of Strand photos. But I’m not in 8th grade. This system for keeping avid art/photography fans and historical material apart  seems bizarre. When I was 14 I had some artistic interest, but they weren’t so sophisticated that I deserved special priority access over adults who know what they’re looking for and at. This is a wasted protest since I probably don’t have archivists who work for these huge libraries pass by here, but what is blogging for if not to vent a little once in a while.

This is from a short review of Robot Futures By Illah Reza Nourbakhsh

With robots, we are inventing a new species that is part material and part digital. The ambition of modern robotics goes beyond copying humans, beyond the effort to make walking, talking androids that are indistinguishable from people. Future robots will have superhuman abilities in both the physical and digital realms. They will be embedded in our physical spaces, with the ability to go where we cannot, and will have minds of their own, thanks to artificial intelligence. They will be fully connected to the digital world, far better at carrying out online tasks than we are. In Robot Futures, the roboticist Illah Reza Nourbakhsh considers how we will share our world with these creatures, and how our society could change as it incorporates a race of stronger, smarter beings.

This fairly recent post at The Atlantic is really about the near term effects – How to Freak Out Responsibly About the Rise of the Robots. The current generation of robots are not bright, not creative and are even limited physically ( they tend to trip easily). Though they can do exacting repetitive tasks all day without a break and they don’t need health insurance. So in the near term they are taking some jobs, though creating other high skilled jobs. So there is some cause for concern now. It might be time to be deeply concerned when they start doing something that looks like thinking.

Yea, we don’t need no stink’n regulation, cause regulation is like Nazism or communism or something like that, West Texas Fertilizer Plant Hadn’t Been Inspected In The Past Five Years

It’s impossible to know at this point whether unsafe workplace conditions were a direct cause of this disaster, but we do know that it was cited for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit in 2006 after a complaint of a strong ammonia smell, a smell that was reported to be “very bad last night.” The plant hasn’t been inspected in the past five years, and in fact only six Texas fertilizer plants were inspected in that time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is chronically understaffed, which means that a given plant like West Fertilizer can only expect to get a state inspection once every 67 years on average.

…While OSHA has been a good deal more effective than it was during the Bush years, it still suffers from a lack of funding and staff. Worse, it’s slated to take a huge cut under the sequester.